Catching Up with Laura Tanzer

At our annual family gathering in earlier this month, my brother-in-law wanted an update on my business:

Laura, how was your summer?

Summer was the calm before busy season! It was a wonderful summer! First, Mike and I had a long-overdue trip to Rome, Bingen on the Rhine, and Barcelona. I had studied in Milan, and this trip to Rome offered lots of inspiration.

Rome

Bingen is this beautiful little town on the Rhine where we enjoyed a lovely dinner with friends overlooking the river, and had the best organic strawberries ever for breakfast!

 

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Barcelona is a feast for the senses and we got to spend time with some friends there, too.

I hired Kristen Lane to do a marketing project over the summer. Kristen is a senior this year at the UA and she did a fabulous job researching boutiques and scheduling upcoming trunk shows. We also created our first printed Look Book, something many boutiques require before having meaningful discussion about carrying a collection.

In June we participated in the Brave Wings Fashion Show in Scottsdale. The models were great and the event was very well organized by the producers, Jenesis LaForcarde and Mabel Cortez. Our girls looked great on the runway and we received lovely reviews from several fashion bloggers, Factual Fashion and Couture in the Suburbs.

In the studio, we were busy designing, cutting, draping and selling items to several loyal local customers. It is great being in Downtown Tucson…it is a destination! Even in the super-hot summer when the winter-season residents are gone, we have clients who like to come downtown for lunch and then stop by the studio to browse and pick out something special for an upcoming event. We catch up, share stories…it is just great!

Laura Tanzer LLC often shows up in my Facebook feed. How do you use social media?

We are definitely using social media! We use Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Google+. We are tweaking the ways we promote our brand to prospective customers and boutiques. In many ways Instagram is the most interesting for me because I can post a picture of my studio or a design-in-progress, include a few descriptive words and hashtags that seem appropriate, and suddenly a bunch of people start “heart-ing” my post! This also happens on Facebook, but on Instagram I often discover those who “heart” the post are completely unknown to me and often in a different part of the country. I love that!

I looked at the calendar on your website and…you sure look busy! How exciting!

Busy season for my team! First, we have a booth at the Arizona Apparel Show at the Phoenix Convention Center at the end of September, where we expect to meet some new boutiques in the Southwest who will schedule Trunk Shows. Then my local bank, National Bank of Arizona, has chosen to highlight me in eight of their branches for two weeks in October. We will have a table, some of our trademark post-cards showcasing selected designs, a mannequin wearing something modern and sophisticated—we’re working on finding a way to show a video from the Brave Wings show as well.

On October 17th I’m participating as a Featured Designer at Tucson Fashion Week. Paula Taylor and Melanie Sutton have put together a wonderful event this year! I’m really excited to be part of the “Garden Party”, hosted at one of my favorite venues, the Tucson Botanical Gardens. We will have twenty models on the runway! Buy your tickets soon,the show is almost sold out! FYI a designated portion of the proceeds will benefit the Tucson Botanical Gardens and Youth On Their Own!

On November 1st (Saturday, from noon to 4pm) I have a Trunk Show at J Gilbert at Casas Adobes Plaza. We are really excited about this project! And the following weekend (Nov 8 & 9) we are participating in the Tucson Pima Arts Council Open Studio Tour…it is a great way for the public to meet artists and see how they craft their art. We’re in the Warehouse Arts District downtown, in our building at 19 E. Toole Avenue you’ll see me, jewelers Bowman and Hock, and felt sculptor Monica Zavala Durazo.

How would you describe the designs you’ll showcase at Tucson Fashion Week?

I don’t want to spoil the surprise! Please attend the live event on October 17th! What I will say, is there will be lots of “ooohs and aaaahs”! My designs will showcase luscious textures and fabrics, as well as my trademark digital print designs on silks and chiffons. If you miss it, come to the trunk show at J Gilbert and stop by the studio during Open Studio Tour in November!

How do you keep up with demand for your clothing?

Wow, we’ve been busy and I put in some long hours! It is going to get even busier! I have trained several skilled sewing technicians, and am looking for more! I could also use a bit more space for our studio—for production activities, for more cutting tables, for a bit more space around the sewing machines. I could use some more machines, and as production ramps up I need to pre-order more fabrics and materials and pay more wages.

How are you addressing these growth needs?

I’m looking into and evaluating several options. First, we are tweaking our business plan to look at run rates, revenues, costs…current data and projections are important when talking to potential investors. We are looking into a business credit line. We are also looking at how the “slow money” investment and funding model can be adapted from organic local food production to our sustainable fashion design and manufacturing business. I am all about quality products, fit, providing local jobs, training skilled workers, building a fashion manufacturing center for excellence here in the Southwest.

What a busy season! Through all the hub-bub, what keeps you motivated and inspired to create?

Quite simply, I love what I do! Owning and operating a small business is demanding and often times, as you suggested, it’s very easy to become lost in the “hub-bub” of technical details and management. As a creative person, it’s essential that I take a step back every now and then and hand over the reins to my “elves”, as we call my staff in the studio, so that I can nurture and feed the inspiration that is behind every single garment I create. So, by allowing me to create my job gives me the inspiration I need. It’s great. I love what I do!

Photo of Alanna Rae Cañez wearing Laura Tanzer by Neil Peters Fotografie